Gerry Mansell was a former AEJ UK chairman and distinguished BBC executive.
From Paul Hodgson Jr, former AEJ UK chairman and son of one of Gerard’s colleagues:
Gerry Mansell, who died on 18 December 2010 aged 89, was an enthusiastic and early supporter of the AEJ.
Born and raised in Paris of an English father and French mother, he was both bilingual and bi-cultural.
He was – not uncritically – in favour of the EU and chaired the British Section with his characteristic verve from 1982 to 1991.
He helped, together with Secretary Don Hatwell, to maintain and develop the section with imaginative, informative and enjoyable lunches, bringing in more members, all at a time of rising euro-scepticism – and, worse, lack of interest – within Britain.
Gerry’s final post in a distinguished BBC career, which began with the European Service in 1951 and included a radical remodelling of the domestic radio services, was as Managing Director External Broadcasting – MDXB in the Corporation’s cherished collection of acronyms – until his mandatory retirement in 1981.
This was a period when I, as a young current affairs producer freshly arrived at the External Broadcasting headquarters, Bush House, from the Today programme on Radio 4, got to know and admire Gerry.
He displayed very clear leadership with cast iron beliefs in the BBC’s core values of impartiality and accuracy.
He also had genuine interest in the careers of his staff, however junior.
Gerry defended Bush House with skill and cunning from any interference from the Foreign Office, which then funded External Broadcasting.
As a young man, freshly demobbed after the war, he had applied to join the FCO, but was rejected as being “too Gallic”.
The years of Gerry’s chairmanship were great fun.
I became treasurer in 1985, thus freeing Don Hatwell to concentrate on his role as secretary, and to act as host for the committee meetings.
These wonderful occasions were held in Don’s Bristol Evening Post office high up over Fleet Street with commanding views across the Thames and London, as we sampled British and French cheeses washed down with a decent Cote du Rhone or two.
The section already had a distinct Gallic flavour as a good number of the BBC’s French Service staff were members; though whether out of choice or duty is not entirely clear, since my father Paul, the Head of the French Service, was a founding member of the British Section and a previous chairman and international president.
While continuing with his many professional and voluntary activities, including attendance at AEJ lunches, Gerry delighted in his love of painting, his fondness of France – which he visited regularly – and his passion for Hampstead.
In later years he ventured out less, but enjoyed the company, over an agreeable lunch, of smaller groups of friends.
I was lucky to have been included in such a group – including my late father, who like Gerry had had to leave the Continent for England in 1940, and the irrepressibly francophile Hans Jaecker, the former Head of the BBC German Service, who found a different route to England – as a PoW at the end of the war!
Their stories and reminiscences were fascinating and often very funny.
Those who attended Gerry’s funeral in London on 11 January 2011 heard that he had been asked how people might characterise him: “Oh, a convivial fellow, I hope!”
And so, Gerry, at whatever table you are seated now, your old AEJ friends and colleagues, together with so many more from your other fields of endeavour, all raise their glasses to you in warm salute. You are missed.